Thursday, October 28, 2010

Exhibit Review: Vivat Rex Exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library

If you were in England during 2009 you could not escape the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of King Henry VIII's accession to the throne.     Here in the United States an exhibition was mounted by The Grolier Library in New York City in collaboration with the Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library, The Morgan Library and Museum and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.    The exhibit, Vivat Rex! is curated by Arthur L. SchwarzHe, who also narrates a cell phone audio tour and wrote the greatly detailed catalogue which is available in the Folger's gift shop.

While the exhibit is not as massive as the Man and Monarch exhibit mounted at the British Library, there are many wonderful historic gems on display.     Highlights include the following artifacts:***

Henry's Mother's Prayer Book - signed "Madam I pray you remember me in your good prayers, your mistress, Elizabeth R.

Henry's schoolboy copy of Cicero - signed "This book is mine, Prince Henry" and featuring English translations in the margins by Prince Henry and probably his tutor, the poet John Skelton.

A facsimile of the Westminster Tournament Roll of 1511 - the entire document showing Henry VIII jousting for Katherine of Aragon at the grand tournament celebrating the birth of their short-lived heir, Prince Henry, the New Year's Day Boy.

The New Year's Gift Roll of 1539 - double sided the part on view shows the gifts given by the King starting with the royal family - to the Prince Edward, to the Lady Mary, to the Lady Elizabeth and to the Lady Margaret Douglas.   The other side shows the gifts given to the King.

The Golden Gospels of Henry VIII - a bound manuscript written on vellum dyed in various shades of purple with gold letters.

A letter from Katherine of Aragon to her nephew, the Emperor Charles V from February 22, 1531.

A letter from Peter Vannes, Henry's Latin secretary and an English diplomat to Cardinal Wolsey written in Latin and partly in cipher showing the translation of the code.

The Great Bible of 1539 with a copy of the ornate title page designed by Hans Holbein the younger.

A later copy of the Bible with Thomas Cromwell's coat of arms whited out.

A Shakespeare second folio heavily censored by the Inquisition showing passages from the play Henry VIII favorable to Queen Elizabeth and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer blacked out.

This is just a taste of the books, drawings and manuscripts on display.   Not everything that is listed in the exhibition catalogue traveled to the Folger, but there is enough in the cases to keep a Tudor enthusiast busy for at least an hour.

****I have modernized the spelling for quoted inscriptions.

The audio tour for cell phones can be a little dry, but the information is excellent.   Cards are available with the phone number and codes for each item highlighted by the tour.

The number is 202-595-1844 and the codes are:

60# - Welcome,  61# - Family Tree, 62# Thys Boke is Myne, 63# A Most Accomplished Prince, #64 Party for a Prince, 65# The Butcher's Son, 66# Gifts Fit for a King, 67# A Grand New Title, 68# Golden Gospels, 69# Catherine's Defense, 70# A Letter in Code, 71# Reformation in Five Acts, 72# The Religious Divide, 73# Royal Instructions, 74# The Great Bible, 75# Censoring Shakespeare, 76# Henry and his Wives, 77# Masterful Monarch?

Vivat Rex! will be on exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library through December 31, 2010.   The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday - Saturday - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed Sundays and Federal holidays.    The exhibition is also open one hour prior to and during the intermission of performances of Shakespeare's Henry VIII playing in the Folger Theatre through November 21, 2010.
For additional information please visit

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Henry VIII at the Folger Theatre

King Henry VIII is arguably the most recognized male monarch of the British Isles.   2009 marked the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the throne at the age of 17.    In commemoration of this anniversary an explosion of books, television programs, films and exhibitions have appeared in the past couple of years.    An American exhibition Vivat Rex! was jointly mounted by The Grolier Club in New York City  (March 4-May 2, 2009) and at the Folger Shakespeare Library (September 18 - December 31, 2010).    In conjunction with the exhibition, the Folger Theatre is mounting a production of William Shakespeare's Henry VIII in their Elizabethan Theatre.

Henry VIII is one of the last, if not the last play that William Shakespeare wrote.   It is believed by many scholars that Shakespeare collaborated on the writing of the play with John Fletcher.    The play is definitely from the Jacobean era as there is much emphasis on masque-like pageantry.   This is a play of epic proportions covering events in the King's life over a period of about 13 years (with a few later events sandwiched in to the narrative).    The play contains no fewer than 39 speaking roles.     It provides a great challenge to any theater company attempting to mount a production.    Can the human characters emerge from the spectacle? Or is this play doomed to be a footnote, forever a marginal note in a list of Shakespeare's works.

The Folger Theatre has created a tight ensemble of only eleven actors to mount this work.  The director, Robert Richmond, has judiciously trimmed the script and turned the focus of the work on the characters themselves.    The marquee events which are grand pageantry such as the divorce trial of King Henry and Queen Katherine of Aragon and the baptism of Princess Elizabeth are intact.    However, by stripping away the spectacle, Mr. Richmond has allowed his talented cast to bring Henry VIII's court to vibrant life.

The set design by Tony Cisek has truly transformed the theater.    Using ornate metal work, Mr. Cisek has created both grandeur in the details, as well as the treachery of the King's court.   Passageways evoke the ease of eavesdropping on one's enemies and serve as prison or confessional.    Above the center of the stage a large round balcony is reminiscent of both a crown, providing a "cloth of estate" for the throne and with its dagger-like ornamentation the constant danger of holding or serving said throne.

Award-winning costume designer, William Ivey Long has created stunningly beautiful costumes.   While they are not strictly accurate to the time period, nonetheless they assist with demonstrating the opulence inherit in the Renaissance court.

Ian Merrill Peakes is a charismatic King Henry VIII.    He is suitably handsome and commanding, bringing forth Henry's desire for control of his kingdom and his destiny.    Naomi Jacobson is beyond sympathetic as Queen Katherine.    She journeys through the play from wise and trusted counselor during the treason trial of the Duke of Buckingham that opens the play to a bewildered, betrayed wife during her own marriage trial. Anthony Cochrane brings a cold, calculating inner strength to Cardinal Wolsey, yet, when he in turn falls from grace, the audience will find a sliver of sympathy to this fallen man of ambition.    Karen Peakes makes Anne Boleyn more than just a pretty face.   The role is very generously written, albeit a relatively small part, after all one does not write ill of Queen Elizabeth's mother during the reign of Elizabeth's successor.   Yet between Ms. Peakes' performance and Mr. Richmond's direction, this Anne Boleyn becomes ensnared in her rise to Queen of England and sees how uneasy her position becomes when she does not produce the sought after male heir to the throne.

Kudos to the director for noting the absurdity of the ending of the play, which is an homage to the greatness of the future Queen Elizabeth.    In truth, her birth was a great disappointment and Mr. Richmond has directed his actors to foreshadow that her birth is not the grand event that Archbishop Cranmer makes it out to be.

Mr. Richmond has created two characters for this production not found in Shakespeare's original text.   The first is Princess Mary, portrayed by Megan Steigerwald.     This character is a non-speaking reminder that Henry and Katherine had a daughter who was bastardized by the King's divorce from her mother.    While the character doesn't not always work in the beginning of the evening, by the end, when she appears in the background listening to her father praise her baby sister as the only great progeny he has produced on this earth her presence brings a poignancy to the evening.

The other character created for the piece is the King's fool, Will Sommers, portrayed by Louis Burtelli.  This decision solves the problem of the recitation of the prologue and the fool plays many of the minor speaking roles.   It is as if the fool is telling the audience the story.    The conceit mostly is effective, but the use of puppets to illustrate some of the events in the story does not always work.    It is however a bold and ambitious concept.

This is a rare opportunity to see a very good production of this seldom produced Shakespeare play.

Henry VIII will be performed by the Folger Theatre until November 28, 2010.  For tickets and additional performance information please visit

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Fox on the Fairway at Signature Theatre

A genuine screwball comedy or modern-day farce is an energetic affair.    It physically exhausts the artists who are performing and leaves its audience breathless from following the mad-cap proceedings.    The Thespian is pleased to report that Ken Ludwig's newest work, A Fox on the Fairway, making its world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, easily accomplishes the first goal and comes very close to achieving the second which may not be the fault of the material, but the variability of a Sunday matinee audience.

We are in the world of country club golf.    Welcome to the clubhouse of Quail Valley Country Club.    It is the day of the annual golf tournament with rival club Crouching Squirrel Golf and Racquet Club.    Crouching Squirrel has won the tournament for five straight years, the entire tenure of current Club President, Bingham.     The desperation of the day envelopes the six member cast.    

We meet Louise (Meg Steedle), humble waitress in the club, who finds it difficult to hide her emotions from her long time boyfriend, Justin (Aubrey Deeker), who has just been hired by Bingham as his junior assistant giving him the courage to ask Louise to marry him complete with his family heirloom engagement ring.
Bingham (Jeff McCarthy), under pressure to win the tournament or lose his Presidency has admitted a ringer to the golf tournament, unfortunately for Bingham, the President of Crouching Squirrel, Dickie (Andrew Long) has poached his player.    With the assistance of Dickie's ex-wife and Quail Valley Board Member Pamela (Holly Twyford) he substitutes Justin as the new lead golfer in the tournament.   Finally the stakes for the tournament are appropriately high as Dickie has pledged $200,000 against Bingham's $100,000 plus Bingham's wife Muriel's (Valerie Leonard) antique shop.    Of course, there is a shady reason for including the antique shop.

Much insanity ensues as everyone tries to win the tournament by hook or by crook.    Director John Rando has set a fast yet manageable pace for his intrepid cast.     It takes a certain talent to perform the heightened physicality and emotions of farce.   This cast has that ability in spades.    In particular the amazing Holly Twyford boozes her way outrageously through the play partnered brilliantly by both Andrew Long and Jeff McCarthy.     Valerie Leonard's role is the smallest yet she is the perfect bull in the china shop of the proceedings.   And our young couple Meg Steedle and Aubrey Deeker ably hold their own with the accomplished, more veteran performers.

The only drawback is the arrangements of the seating in The Max.   For this production it is long rows of seats with no center aisle.   If you are seated in the middle of an aisle you will have to go through about ten people no matter on which side you enter your aisle.

A true delight comes near the end of the performance.   Without spoiling the surprise, the Thespian will simply state that if this were a film you'd want to stay through the closing credits.

Ken Ludwig's A Fox on the Fairway will be performed at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia through November 14, 2010.   For tickets and other performance information please visit

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review: Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love by Elizabeth Norton

The Thespian was very disappointed by this book. As a reviewer, I had enjoyed Ms. Norton's previous
book, Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII's Obsession which I recommend as a
"lite" Anne Boleyn history if you don't want to go through the much
more extensive and definitive Eric Ives The Life and Death of Anne

The problem with the Jane Seymour book is that  Ms. Norton falls into the
trap of inventing scenarios for Jane when she doesn't have the facts
to fill in gaps in Jane's life. "Jane was exhilarated, Jane would
have loved to do this, etc. etc. " It's the same trap that a lot of
recent history books, such as the Joanna Denny Anne Boleyn biography
and the Julia Fox Jane Boleyn biography follow.

The Thespian is much more impressed when a biographer admits that they don't have
the data and present what is definitely known without the need for
fictionalizing what isn't known.

As an example there is a new biography of Mary Boleyn, and
 the writer has just presented the primary source
information as fact along with secondary sources that have been
produced with commentary about whether or not the information
contained in those secondary sources can be true or not. It's very

As for the content of the Jane Seymour book, I will give Ms. Norton credit in her
portrayal of Jane Seymour as not the pliable little wallflower. She
argues that she was just as ambitious at achieving her goals as Anne
Boleyn was.   

If you want a biography of Jane Seymour that presents the facts stick
to the information in one of the Six Wives books, I particularly
recommend the David Starkey version for the best analysis of Jane
Seymour as Queen.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don Quixote: Book II at the Maryland Renaissance Festival

The Huffington Post recently named Don Quixote as one of thirteen books that many adults claim to have read, but actually have not done so.     The Accidental Thespian has read the novel and realizes that the novel is not simply an expanded version of the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha.
In fact  Miguel de Cervantes wrote the book in two parts and they were published a decade apart.   While the modern editions of the novel include both "books" they are vastly different in tone.

In 2009, Baltimore playwright, Mike Field, undertook the monumental task of adapting Book One as the featured main stage production for the professional acting company of The Maryland Renaissance Festival.     While many of the familiar elements of the story were referred to, including attacking windmills believing they were giants and the finding of the Golden Helmet, Mr. Field chose to focus the majority of the story on one of the adventures in which Don Quixote, knight errant, helps two young women reunite with the men that they love - the Cardenio story.    The Thespian thoroughly enjoyed the production, but felt that the limitations placed on the production by the nature of the event and the limit of a less than 90 minute running time hurt the adaptation.    The thespian hopes that Mr. Field gets another chance to expand Book One into a full-evening production in the future.

For the 2010 Maryland Renaissance Festival season, Mr. Field has concluded what he began in 2009 and adapted Book Two of Don Quixote.   The production is directed by first time main stage director at the Festival John Sadowsky.     For those who saw the production of Book One the opening of the show is a recreation of the ending of the 2009 production as a play being performed for a Duke and Duchess.    The Don Quixote of Book 2 has become world famous and the adaptation focuses on Don Quixote's quest to free his beloved Dulcinea from a curse wherein she is trapped in the body of a hideously ugly peasant.  (audience members beware of this plot point.)

Meanwhile the Duke (Glenn Evans)  and Duchess (Joy Evans) bored with their aristocratic life, are delighted when Don Quixote (Fred Nelson) and his faithful, put-upon squire, Sancho Panza (Brian H. Reynolds) arrive at their castle.   The terrific pair are great fun to watch and Mr. Evans, in particular has made some character choices that are absolutely hilarious.  With the help of a troupe of actors they decide to use the famous pair for their own entertainment, inadvertently adding wonderful pathos when some of their amusements do not turn out quite as they intend.    For example, it is Sancho's dream to become the governor of an island.   The Duke and Duchess grant his wish and it turns out that Sancho is quite good at the job.    They even tempt Sancho's long-suffering wife, Teresa (Nora Achrati) who succumbs to the temptations of being treated as a high status governor's wife, ignoring the fact that the nobility is simply mocking her pretentions for their own pleasure.  Ms. Achrati is a true comedienne and joyful new addition to this year's acting company.

Meanwhile, two characters who appeared in Book One, Nicholas the Barber (Casey Severn) and Father Pedro (Brian Douglas) have been trailing Don Quixote in the hopes that they can restore his sanity and convince him to return home.  While their roles are smaller in Book Two, they are significant to the tale and both are wonderful performers.

The production is very smoothly staged by Mr. Sadowsky who easily stages the many locations and seamlessly transitions from one scene to the next.    This is a challenge at the Maryland Renaissance Festival as there are no modern scenery changing devices available.

The entire cast performs with enthusiasm.   Mr. Nelson is appropriately a commanding presence as Don Quixote, but takes the ribaldry at which he is frequently the target with comedic skill.   Mr. Reynolds brings a talent for physical comedy, yet he also breaks the audience's heart as he embodies Sancho's realization of the importance of his beloved master's quest.

The acting company of Dave Joria, Stephanie Offutt, Graham Pilato, Jack Powers, Heather Scheeler, John Dickson and Mary Schmidt Wakefield are a perfectly balanced ensemble.   It appears that Mr. Sadowsky cast each one for their individual talents and each is allowed to shine in small roles, yet they work beautifully together as a unit when called upon by the script.

The only downside to the production comes from the hard wooden benches that the audience must sit on for the 80 minute production.   If you have a cushion bring it for this show worth risking the aching bum.

Don Quixote: Book Two will be performed at 2 p.m. on the Globe Theatre Stage at the Maryland Renaissance Festival through the end of the festival's run - October 23 and 24, 2010.

For performance information please visit

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Evil Dead: The Musical at Landless Theatre Company

If it's October then it must be time for a lot of theatre companies to put on appropriately themed shows.   Fortunately for the audiences there are a lot more choices than at Christmastime which tends to bring an endless stream of A Christmas Carol, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and The Nutcracker.     For every company that produces a version of Dracula or Frankenstein there are the more contemporary tales such as The Rocky Horror Show, Little Shop of Horrors or The Toxic Avenger.    To this list must be added the very fun Evil Dead: The Musical currently being produced by Landless Theatre Company at the Frederick Cultural Arts Center in Maryland.

Touted on their website as the only musical created from a series of horror films (Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness) Evil Dead: The Musical was very appropriately created in the back room of a bar in Toronto in 2003.    It subsequently had a good run off-Broadway at New World Stages in 2006-2007.   Landless produced the show in 2009 and brings it back in 2010 to an appreciative audience.

One does not need to know the films (the fans in the audience will let you know when a favorite line comes up), or worry about being frightened by the action upon the stage.    One does need to be prepared for the splatter zone.   There is a reason that all of the theater seats are wrapped in plastic and the box office sells trash bag ponchos for $1.00.    No matter where you sit there is good chance that you will get hit by blood (which washes out).    This reviewer was quite proud of the fact that despite no protection she managed to only get "hit" with a few drops on the wrist, clothing pristine, despite being only three seats away from an audience member that got drenched.

The script and score of the show are not as well written as Little Shop of Horrors or The Toxic Avenger musicals.   There are some very clever songs.     Act one appears to be staged a bit erratically as we encounter the classic horror movie teens trapped in the woods scenario.  We meet our hero, Ash (Clay Comer), his sister Cheryl (Karissa Swanigan), girlfriend Linda (Amy Baughman), best friend Scott (Matt Baughman) and Scott's girl of the week Shelly (Momo Nakamura).  The teens break into a cabin in the wood where they discover hidden in the basement the necronomicon - the book of the dead and a tape recording of the professor who discovered the book.   The recording includes an incantation which brings the evil forces to life.     One by one, beginning with Cheryl the teens succumb to the evil forces.    Meanwhile we meet the professor's daughter, Annie (Heather Bagnall Scheeler), her boyfriend Ed (Charles Johnson) and a reliable guide, Jake (Andrew Lloyd Baughman who also provides the voices of the professor and the moose).     Act two seems written a bit more seamlessly as much blood and puns are shed as the story grows to its macabre finale.

While the vocal qualities of the ensemble are not evenly matched all of the actors perform well the stereotypes of their parts.     Standout performances are given by Karissa Swanigan who transitions from sheltered loner to pure evil, a combination of demon possessed Regan from The Exorcist and the last demon comic standing.    Charles Johnson takes his meek and seldom spoken Ed and drives him to a scene stealing singing dynamo.    Heather Bagnall Scheeler provides the right mix of all-knowing expositionist to vibrant act two love interest.     It takes a bit of act one for him to warm up, but ultimately Clay Comer becomes the dashing hero of the evening with a strong voice and a strong stomach for the carnage he must create.

The show is hampered by using recorded music, but the advantage is that the score does not overwhelm the actors and they do not require microphones to be heard, a true rarity in musical theatre of the 21st century.    

Evil Dead: The Musical is a fun evening and great preparation for the Halloween season.   Make sure to wear white if you are going to sit in the front row and you might come away with a great homemade Halloween costume.

Evil Dead: The Musical will be presented October 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. and October 31 at 3 p.m. at the Frederick Cultural Arts Center, 15 W. Patrick Street in Frederick, Maryland.   For tickets and other performance information visit

Friday, October 8, 2010

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at The Kennedy Center

As a season subscriber to The Kennedy Center's Ballet Series for many years, I looked forward with a light heart and a smile to the beginning of my dance season this season.    Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo, part of the contemporary dance series, but available as an add-on for the ballet series, has never in its 36 year history performed at The Kennedy Center.   The shame of this was rectified in two performances held in the Eisenhower Theater October 6 and 7, 2010.

Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo was founded in 1974 as an en travesti, fun parody company loving skewering the traditions of classical ballet.    Yet, do not dismiss this as a version of Saturday Night Live's Bad Ballet sketch.   The Trocks are all accomplished ballet dancers with very impressive credits in some of the world's best known ballet companies.   What is even more impressive is that all of the Trocks have had to learn not only the well known "cavalier/prince" roles of a principal male dancer, they have also learnt the prima ballerina, soloist and corps de ballet of the women's roles - en pointe.

The tone of the evening was set as the audience settled into their seats.   All around this reviewer could hear quiet laughter as fellow patrons sounded out the Russian names of the dancers.    A heavily accented announcer gave the curtain speech, reminded the audience that if they didn't turn off their cell phones, the Trocks would do it for them.    Also announced was which pas de deux the Trocks decided to add, which was the grand pas de deux from Le Corsair.   And, to our delight, an additional piece, the famous Dying Swan would be executed that night.

The Trocks began with what has become their signature piece, Le Lac des Cygnes (Swan Lake, Act II). If you have seen Swan Lake, you know all of the sections of this famously excerpted sequence.    But, you haven't quite seen Swan Lake like this.    Every element of the 19th century grand ballet tradition is lovingly skewered, from the balletic mime language taken to the extreme, to the types of rare accidents which can occur when the soloists who form the quartet of cygnets dance so close to one another and in "perfect" unison.

It is delightful that part of the fun is that each member of the company has a distinctive character and as some of the dancers are repeated throughout the evening, you can smile as a certain personality puts her stamp on the dance.

You will have ample opportunity to cheer the athletic skills of the Trocks.  In the bravura dancing of Le Corsair and Paquita, it is the rare audience who would not be brought to their feet by the leaps and precision turns of the dancers.     And, even the more modern styles get their attention as the Trocks brilliantly parody the Balanchine method down to the geometric contortions and the insistence on wearing rehearsal clothes to reveal and revel in pure dance.

Lastly, the addition of the dying swan was a joyful delight.    This swan clearly had a molting disease, and anyone who can dance with that many feathers upon the stage is skilled indeed.

Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo appeared at the Eisenhower Theater in Washington DC's The Kennedy Center October 6-7, 2010.    For information on upcoming performances visit

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete World of Sports (Abridged)

From the hallowed halls of the Modlin Center for the Arts at The University of Richmond, three intrepid sports reporters, Austin Tichenor, Matt Rippy and Reed Martin dare to achieve what no fool has attempted afore in this or any other lifetime...they attempt to condense in four short quarters, two halves, nay, the play heard 'round the world, the Complete World of Sports (abridged).

This reviewer has had the privilege of being exposed to the Reduced Shakespeare Company's brilliant repartee ever since seeing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at Washington, DC's The Kennedy Center and has traveled through The Complete History of America (Abridged), The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged), All the Great Books (Abridged) and Completely Hollywood (Abridged).   I've never seen Western Civilization: The Complete Musical (Abridged), but I have the CD, and I subscribe to their wonderful weekly podcast.      So, when my husband's car's gps sent us through many Richmond neighborhoods and the wrong way through the University of Richmond campus, meaning that we arrived five minutes late and the usher led me to my seat in the second row...I knew I was doomed. I have attended enough RSC productions to know what they do to latecomers.    So, I was prepared.   Apparently my willingness to take the ribbing from Matt, Austin and Reed led the woman sitting next to me to think I was a plant in the audience.  No, I am not a plant, I am very proudly still a member of the animal kingdom.

But, enough about me.   What about the newest offering from the RSC?    Is it a home run, gooooal, touchdown, unhorsing (that's joust talk), perfect 10, or any of a number of sports cliches?   The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) is a fun, high-energy marathon through the ages.   While not a linear journey through the history of sports the show is broken down into categories and continents and divided amongst the four quarters of the evening.   Our intrepid RSCPN reporters  bring laughter, groans, cheers, winces and smiles as they charge through an incredible array of sporting events. If you think of an obscure sport they probably cover it in the show, or a close cousin of the sport.   They even cover cheese wheel rolling, a proud English sport with a very violent history.

Without giving too much of the evening's entertainment away, highlights include the invention of sports from the dawn of mankind, golf, insane sports mostly invented in the British Isles, women's sports history, the olympics and a marvelous mad dash finale that will leave the audience breathless and in need of a hit from Reed Martin's ever present inhaler.

Our persevering performers sweat, strain and literally risk life and limbs to entertain their audience.   Austin Tichenor brings his razor sharp wit and charm as he fences his way to victory. Reed Martin uses all of the skills he learned as a graduate of The Bill Kinnamon School of Professional Umpire Training and Clown College as he plows through a defense that crumbles in front of his Heisman worthy offense.   And Matt Rippy, not only is he simply gorgeous, he has no right to be that graceful in rhythmic gymnastics.    All three easily deliver gold medal performances.

Being that The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) is quite literally a brand-new show, there are some growing pains to get through as the "Bad Boys of Abridgment" (quoted from the program) polish and perfect this athletic gem.    A few of the transitions, mostly in the first half of the show seem a bit abrupt. There are a few too many blackouts ending some of the skits for this reviewer's taste, however necessary they may be for the clearing and setting of the scenes.      Despite this minor quibble, The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) is clearly on par with the many quality shows this company has reduced since 1981.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company performs across the country.   Please visit their website for performance dates and locations.